Weekly column by the Ministry of Health |13 November 2021
That most important half of the plate
Now that you've engaged your brain to eat healthy and you've started to ease into the concept of "my healthy plate", we'll dig a little further into the plate.
We'll start with the most important part of the plate, which is made up of vegetables and fruits.
Vegetables and fruits make up half of the plate because it contains most of the range of nutrients your body needs to keep you healthy. This includes an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and other components such as dietary fibre and phytochemicals (chemicals produced by plants which protects them from pathogens but also gives them their colour, odour and flavour) which reduces your risk of many chronic diseases. It is important therefore to incorporate a variety of vegetables and fruits of different colours in your meals every day.
Due to its wealth of health benefits, it's no surprise therefore that a growing number of people – including high performance sports people – are adopting a predominantly plant-based diet and others a vegan diet.
Focusing on Fresh and Local
This is also the half of the plate that gets you focusing on fresh vegetables and fruits that grow near you, often grown by farmers you know and are sometimes seasonal.
Besides home-grown vegetables and fruits, you can also include some imported options that are not grown locally such as carrots and broccoli and additionally others that are frozen. We're talking here about items such as garden peas, spinach and berries, most of which have retained their nutritional value and therefore just as good as their fresh counterparts.
Traditional is healthy
Our traditional vegetables and greens are super healthy – think Moringa (Bred mouroum), watercress, Chinese cabbage (Bred Soutsin), snake gourd (patol), bitter gourd (Margoz), water spinach (Bred Lanmar), Amaranth (Bred Paryater), not to mention pumpkin, cucumber, and eggplant.
Another area where our Creole cuisine scores high on this half of the plate is our tradition of chutneys (satini) which we create from fruits when they are still green such as papaya, golden apple (frisiter), and mangoes.
Much as we're often encouraged to eat frugally like our parents and grandparents, they did something to vegetables that you shouldn’t do – and that is to overcook them.
Spinach (bred) for example should be dropped into your dish, or broth (bouyon) at the very last minute, so that they are not overcooked but preserve most of their nutrients.
Other vegetables are best steamed, grilled or stir-fried to give you the best nutrition, with less added fat and salt.
Consider different ways that you can incorporate vegetables and fruits in your meals, while being mindful of how you prepare them, to ensure that you are getting enough of it every day.
Down the line once you've started to discover the whole wonderful world of plants, you may even want to start exploring how to enjoy some of them raw.
Moving to tubers next
But let's master the plate first, and give you some time to get it right, before we take you into the field to explore our tubers and other starches next week.
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By: GP in collaboration with Nutrition unit, Health Care Agency
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